JUNIOR TENNIS LESSONS
The article (The Glitter Has Gone, Nov. 8) on Lori Kosten by Barry McDermott should be required reading for every parent who has a child in sports. It is extremely well written and touched me to my heart.
Twelve years ago, my son Gene held a host of age-group world records. He was written up in FACES IN THE CROWD (Aug. 30, 1971). At age 10 he told me that he didn't want to run again. I felt he let me down by not continuing to run. He felt that I let him down by taking away a piece of his childhood. There were some very difficult times, but now we are good friends.
Congratulations to Lori. She is a great lady and is to be congratulated for having a mind of her own. We can all learn from her.
GABE MIRKIN, M.D.
Silver Spring, Md.
Having been involved in coaching for 13 years, I particularly appreciated Barry McDermott's article on Lori Kosten and the not-so-fun side of junior tennis. Although my sport is swimming, not tennis, I think the article revealed a problem inherent in all children's athletics, i.e., the all-consuming need to win.
I personally have seen parents berate their children for not winning, regardless of the caliber of their youngsters' performances, thereby eliminating their one true source of consolation. I have seen it in football, baseball and even soccer. It happens with young basketball players, gymnasts and swimmers.
I have always believed that parents are the greatest teachers any child will ever have. As a parent and a coach, I can testify that this is true. Every parent who has a child involved in athletics should take stock of what Lori has to say and of what the article has to say in general. By putting on a youngster the kind of pressure to win that even an adult would have trouble handling, we are not only destroying the child's spirit but also the sports we say we love. If a sport cannot be fun, get out. Winning isn't everything.
Olympia Athletic Club
Fort Wayne, Ind.
As an avid tennis player, USTA sectional officer and tennis club manager, I have been around players and parents who have subjected themselves and others to the pressure of competitive tennis. Their responses and reactions to these pressures resembled those of the junior players and parents cited in Barry McDermott's article. What I fail to understand are the coaches and parents who instill expectations of tennis greatness in these juniors yet offer no alternative but further pressures if these expectations are not met. Why should Lori Kosten have felt she was a failure for being the No. 3 12-year-old in the U.S.?
In the final paragraph of the article, Nick Bollettieri said that with the proper attitude and his coaching, Lori could be on the pro tour within two years. He appears to be suggesting that Lori again face a deadline to fulfill high expectations. I hope that this time around her love of the sport will win out over timetables, outsiders and goals. Good luck, Lori!
The Wynfield Club
Your remarkable story was especially interesting to me, because I have had an experience in tennis similar to that of Lori Kosten and the others, but at a lower level of competition. I come from a small community where I became an all-stater in tennis. A lot of people had great expectations of my going on to play in college, yet deep down I knew there would be no college tennis for me because I was mentally "burned out." Today, two years later, I am happily attending Arizona State—and not playing serious tennis. I'll never forget the tension, high blood pressure and temper tantrums that caused me to quit that side of the sport.
DAVID (DEACON) EWING
As a high school coach of freshman football and baseball teams, I run into parents every day who are reliving their lost childhoods through their children. This appears to be especially prevalent in the younger age groups. Children are pushed to perform to their utmost ability, and they learn at an early age to use any tactics necessary to gain an edge on their competition.
What's truly unfortunate is that these children can develop inflated egos. With their parents constantly extolling their athletic abilities, it becomes impossible for the kids to see through the fog of accolades. They are unable to discover who they really are, and this can have a devastating effect on them in their later school years. It can be especially hard for them to take when they reach high school and compete against other athletes of equal ability. No longer are they the superathletes their parents told them they were. Rather, they may be lucky just to be as good as the rest—and what's wrong with that?
DOUGLAS A. EXLEY
While pushing athletes to the limit may improve their athletic abilities, it is imperative for coaches, parents and peers to realize that an athlete's physical limits are not his or her only barrier. I think that you did a great job in showing that the price athletes pay for success may be higher than many of us realize.
Your FACES IN THE CROWD item (Oct. 18) on Danny Mueller, a 9-year-old marathoner, could be construed as an endorsement of long-distance running for children. This is unfortunate because the most recent orthopedic and pediatric research shows potentially hazardous results in youngsters from such endurance activities. As a matter of fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a position paper warning against long-distance events for prepubescent children. In addition, some American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance researchers have suggested, for physical and psychological reasons, that youngsters not participate in competitive endurance events before age 10. I hope that SI will use its influence to caution parents and children against premature endurance activities.
LINDA K. BUNKER, PH.D.
Motor Learning Laboratory
University of Virginia
SCOTT REPPERT'S EXAMPLE
What a welcome change! Jill Lieber's story on Lawrence University Running Back Scott Reppert (Appleton's Apple Pie Guy, Nov. 8) was a ray of sunshine on an otherwise bleak sports horizon. When the daily sports report becomes a mélange of strikes, cases of drug abuse, litigations and probations, it is refreshing to see a young man with the qualities of compassion and empathy that are so evident in Reppert.
As an educator who has observed the deleterious effect of the current sports scene on today's youth, I can only hope that there are more Scott Repperts who are learning to keep everything in perspective.
Rock Springs, Wyo.
After reading the story about Scott Reppert, I feel reassured that there are excellent models for our young people to look up to, and that at least some of our youngsters are being taught the value of sharing life with others and not just seeing what you can get from the world no matter what the price.
Too often those people who have been lifted to the ranks of "superstar" are the ones our youth aspire to imitate. However, the number who make it to the top is so small compared to the number seeking those positions that we have to help our young people off Cloud Nine and bring them back down into the real world of their potential.
Reppert has shown that his values in life are in good order. Congratulations for discovering a new hero.
Religious Education Office
Saint Pius X Elementary School
Jack Falla's article (He's the Hindmost of the Devils, Nov. 8) on Chico Resch and the New Jersey Devils was very well done, except for one statement. He refers to the trade of Barry Beck to the New York Rangers as one of two boneheaded front office moves by the team, then known as the Colorado Rockies, and notes that the four players received in the deal are no longer with the franchise.
As general manager of the Rockies at the time and the person instrumental in negotiating the trade, I beg to differ with Falla. We received five players and $750,000 in cash for Beck, a good and talented defenseman. It is true that none of the players involved is still with the franchise. However, three of those players were subsequently traded for players who are with the Devils: Mike McEwen was swapped for the Islanders' Steve Tambellini and Chico Resch; Pat Hickey for Joel Quenneville (also involved in that deal with Toronto was Wilf Paiement for Lanny McDonald); Lucien DeBlois for Brent Ashton and Winnipeg's third-round choice in the 1982 entry draft.
Don Lever and Bob MacMillan were subsequently acquired by my successor, Billy MacMillan, in a trade for McDonald. And the team used Winnipeg's third-round draft choice to pick a good prospect in Dave Kasper.
Now, does Falla still think the Barry Beck deal was a boneheaded move?
Broken Arrow, Okla.
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